WILL: A test of wills in education
Published: Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 7:44 p.m.
Unions are besieged, especially public-sector unions, particularly teachers unions, and nowhere more than here. Teachers unions have been bombarded with bad publicity, much of it earned, including the movie
Still, have sympathy for Karen Lewis, 58, a Dartmouth graduate who is a daughter of two African-American teachers. She taught chemistry for 22 years until becoming president of the 26,502-member CTU. Her job is to make life better for her members, not to make life easier for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with his roughneck
He thinks that improved schools, including more charter schools, might arrest the exodus to the suburbs of parents whose children are ready for high school, so he wants a longer school year and school day. America’s school year (about 180 days) is one of the shortest in the industrial world, and while middle-class children may leaven their summers with strolls through the Louvre, less privileged children experience
The CTU wants a pay raise — 30 percent — proportional to Emanuel’s 90-minute increase in the school day and 10-day increase in the school year. He has canceled a 4 percent raise and offers only 2 percent. He says benefits the CTU has won — e.g., many teachers pay nothing toward generous pensions they can collect at age 60 — could in just three years force property taxes up 150 percent and require classes with 55 students.
Even discounting Emanuelean hyperbole, whose fault is this? Just as foggy rhetoric about corporations’
Anyway, money — salaries and pensions — may not be the most problematic point of contention. It might be teacher
The city is experiencing an epidemic of youth violence — a 38 percent surge in the homicide rate, 53 people shot on a recent weekend, random attacks by roving youth mobs. Social regression, driven by family disintegration, means schools where teaching is necessarily subordinated to the arduous task of maintaining minimal order.
Emanuel got state law changed to require unions to get 75 percent of the entire membership rather than a simple majority to authorize a strike. Some people thought this would make strikes impossible. The CTU got 90 percent to authorize. Lewis’ members are annoyed and are not all wrong.
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